Sam Neill looking sharp in new mystery thriller series, Apples Never Fall, after cancer diagnosis

Apples Never Fall official trailer

Peacock Original

When Northern-Ireland-born, New Zealand-raised actor Sam Neill revealed he was diagnosed with cancer last year, he was determined to keep working, admitting retirement from acting “fills me with horror”.

Neill, 76, whose body of work encompasses 100 films and 50-plus TV series, was diagnosed with stage three angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma during a 2022 publicity tour for Jurassic Park: Dominion.

Drug treatment options dominated thereafter, but it didn’t stop him turning up on film sets in Queensland ready for action.

He filmed miniseries Apples Never Fall, based on Liane Moriarty’s No.1 New York Times best-selling novel, in March last year and only wrapped the final two episodes in December.

He completed another season (eight episodes) of crime drama The Twelve, and somewhere in between filmed low-budget Australian action thriller, Bring Him To Me.

Neill says he’s feeling healthy and has had a happy and “productive year”.

In a pre-recorded interview on New Year’s Eve, he told US broadcaster CNN: “I am in remission.”

“I’ve had a very productive year. I’ve shot two long series and I couldn’t be happier or healthier.”

Speaking to the ABC’s Australian Story in October, Neill said doctors had to switch medication when earlier chemotherapy treatment failed after three months.

His Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a relatively rare cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.

The drug proved successful and Neill has been in remission from stage three cancer for more than 12 months.

He said doctors had advised him that drug, too, would eventually fail.

Every two weeks Neill has infusions that are “keeping me alive”. They will have to continue indefinitely.

More recently, Neill , who owns and operates Two Paddocks vineyard in Central Otago, has been updating fans on social media with him working in his vegetable garden, feeding pigs, sheep and cows.

Neill told CNN after his big 2023 he needed to go back to his farm.

“Finishing two big series, and being able to look forward to next year [2024] … I realised I was really tired and realised it was time to go back to my farm.”

He wrote candidly about his fight with cancer in his recent autobiography, Did I Ever Tell You This?

The cast playing the Delaney family formed a bond off set and have regular group chats. Photo: Binge

‘Helped anchor us all’

Neill said he contemplated his mortality, and while dying would be “annoying” he was not “remotely afraid”.

But what did terrify him was the thought of not being able to work, or retiring altogether.

Apples premieres in March, and Neill takes centre stage alongside four-time Oscar-nominated actor Annette Bening, playing a husband-and-wife couple with four kids who are about to retire from their successful tennis academy.

Alongside Bening, whose been nominated for a best actress Oscar for Nyad, Neill hung out with Alison Brie (GLOW), Jake Lacy (The White Lotus), Conor Merrigan Turner (Thai Cave Rescue) and Essie Randles (Speedway).

“I can’t tell you how privileged I am to spend that amount of time with so many actors, so many of whom I’ve really enjoyed and so many of whom I’ve really admired,” he said in the ABC interview.

Moriarty’s story is set around the seemingly picture-perfect Delaney family, but when a wounded young woman knocks on their door, and Joy (Bening) disappears, the children are forced to re-examine their parents’ so-called perfect marriage.

“It’s a very intriguing story … it’s a family drama and there’s a lot of mystery and secrets,” Neill said.

His Hollywood career includes his portrayal of Dr Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park films, and as a tough Irish cop in Peaky Blinders.

He also starred in The Hunt for Red October, Event Horizon and The Piano. His Australian body of work includes The Dish and My Brilliant Career.

Bening, who says her cast regularly do group chat, told USA Today working with Neill brought a gravitas to his role that “helped anchor us all”.

“He just has something, an inner life I guess, that immediately shows up on the screen in that look of his. But off camera, he couldn’t be a more fun guy.”

Apples Never Fall premieres on March 14 on BINGE

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